Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Can You Really Tell The Difference Between Good And Evil?

In Freedom, Good and Evil, Life, Love, Relationships, Sin, Suffering on May 28, 2011 at 6:07 am

One of the happiest days of my life was when my ex-husband and I separated. (It was one of his happiest days too.) After I had accepted the fact that our kids would be fine (and they are) a whole new world opened up to me.

Just a year later I decided that all Christian churches were essentially the same and that I couldn’t give any more of my Sundays to the institution. Even though I saw the break up of my family and then I walked away from my church community, I must have been one of the happiest people on the planet.

The freedom was almost overwhelming. Sure, there was some fear. How was I going to support myself? Was it safe out there alone? Will I be able to make new friends? But otherwise, there were so many things to do, places to see, subjects to study and thoughts to think that I didn’t know where to begin. I was like a kid who just found a chest full of treasure.

At first I tried to follow all of my heart’s desires. The only problem was that I didn’t know what those were exactly. I needed some trial and error. I had spent so many years making “God’s desires” my own that I had no idea what was in my own soul. I didn’t know how to connect with it either. Plus, there was always a lurking fear of what I might find.

Eventually I made the jump out of the cage and realized that I had been given wings. In fact, I had all kinds of capabilities that I never realized I had – and they are all clearly intended not only for survival but for the enjoyment of life. So, I’ve spent the last four years in discovery mode and I’ve been figuring out and narrowing down my personal goals too. Overall, it’s been a blast.

But Christianity, at least in my life, has some far-reaching tentacles. This Unravel blog contains a lot of religious issues that I’ve had to work through as I am learning to live out in the wild. But one of the things I noticed as I was reading over some of my latest posts is that, besides My Story, my writing isn’t very detailed with the personal. I wonder why?

I think this is at least partly due to the harsh criticism from well-meaning Christians who believe I have turned away from God. It’s not easy to bare your soul when others are warning you of an impending inescapable fire in the after-life as a consequence. So it was probably pretty wise to keep some things to myself until those relationships were no longer such a threat.

Another reason is that well, as a Christian, being real generally isn’t allowed. “Real” means sinful. Or it means that we are not conforming to the things of God. I was able to get past this barrier when I realized that sin is simply a natural part of our world and it plays a vital role in the essence of life. Good cannot exist apart from evil and the friction between the two actually creates the energy to keep life in motion. Quantum physics might provide some very logical answers as to the how and why of life.

Although I might be more open than a lot of people, I think there is a third reason why I might spend more time on debating surface issues instead of chatting about my private life even with trusted friends…. The fateful fact is that getting too close to someone scares the crap out of me.

Maybe this is what everyone feels to some extent. Maybe it’s natures way of protecting ourselves. I don’t really know, but I know I want to face it and find out what’s up with it. The reason why I think I latched on to a religion in the first place was so that I could get semi-close to people (everybody needs friends) without getting too close to people, and therefore getting really, really hurt.

I also suspect that this is why all of my passions don’t include finding deep love or a soul mate. It’s almost like I’ve created a plan to avoid those elements. I guess I even have my doubts that they exist. If they do exist, well who wants to deal with relationship drama anyway? Plus, it seems that even the most intimate of people can only get so close before some frustratingly unseen barrier says, “That’s far enough.”

And I think I just realized yet another Christian philosophy that I have been conditioned to accept and believe whether that conditioning was intentional or not. And it has been hiding out in the recesses of what controls my thoughts and actions.

I think it’s a simple fear of people. This fear can be created from anything – such as a past experience where we were abandoned, or from a religious belief. The doctrine of original sin doesn’t trust people. And neither do we when it’s part of our past or present theology.

It causes us to expect people to hurt us because, well, they don’t have any other choice. We’re all sinners and to be honest, I don’t have a solid argument against that. Evil as well as good seems to make up the fabric of the entire world, including human nature. And none of us seem to be exempt from it, no matter what we believe.

While I don’t think that God is psychotic enough to punish the sinners he created, if He is God, and if He did create the world, I also think that there are built-in consequences for both our wisdom and our ignorance. These results might not always pan out the way we expect but it seems pretty clear to me that this world is at least partially governed by the law of cause and effect.

Maybe these natural consequences are what Bible authors considered the wrath and blessings of God. But then we get this messed up idea that God is rewarding us when something pleasant happens to us and God is punishing us when nothing seems to be going right in our lives. And I’m not sure how that God is any different from any other mythological Zeus that has been feared and worshiped since the beginning of time. To me, it seems nothing more than living by the mercy of a lucky rabbit’s foot.

As the world turns, so does happiness and regret… and I don’t see any way around that fact. Life is going to be great. But it’s also going to hurt, no matter how much we pray, hope, or how many wise choices we make. Life is still painful when we put up walls and attempt to live in apathy. Eventually the loneliness will kill us. So we venture out and make ourselves vulnerable.

Getting back to the personal me (yikes) I’d like to somehow reconcile myself with the fact that wisdom created a very painful world full of suffering. Or, taking a mystery God out of the equation, I need to be willing to suffer if I want to live, or have anything to do with life. This is because suffering is life, or at least one imperative aspect of it.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”
~ Khalil Gibran

 

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this blog post. I guess I just want to give a shout out and let people know that I’m human. I have triumphs and tears and fears just like anyone else. And I’m not really sure how to connect with people through them, except maybe through the somewhat safe and disengaged social networking. (Although, I’ve been enjoying some private Facebook groups which can take distant friendships a step beyond.)

I guess I also just want to put myself out there a little more and ask for understanding or advice or encouragement or whatever you might be good at giving to others. I feel like I’m resorting to one of those predictable movie endings where all the characters have just gone through hell and now they all realize what’s really important in life (each other.) And then we’ve got the gushy group hugs and Kum Bah Yahs and hurry up and get to the credits already.

But for whatever it’s worth, I’d like to live “in peace with all men, as far as it depends on [me.]” I think it’s okay to discriminate against others because of the fears within us, but there seems to come a point in time when that gets really old. The social and cultural “isms” can be another impervious barrier. And I think that’s fine too. But I think that intimidating people just want someone to care enough to ignore or accept their bullying.

Any way you look at it, there seems to be a human connection that already exists and I wonder just how much we fight it. Just like joy and sorrow are inseparable, so maybe good and evil are also inseparable… and so maybe are also human beings…. Are we inseparable? Maybe we are and maybe we aren’t… or maybe we are in some unknown or unperceived realm of life. Either way, I think we all need each other in some form or another, even if it’s at a safe distance until we can trust each other enough to get closer.

But I like having friends. And I like their diversity too although it can sometimes be difficult to find the line between uniqueness and commonality. Intrinsically, I think we’re all the same.

Making friends with someone we fear can be monumental. If we can get close enough, we might just see an empty scare tactic used to keep a heart guarded. So maybe I want to make another jump out of a cage. Life is way too short to have enemies, especially over something like religion or politics or where we were born….

I think I’d even listen to contemporary Christian music if it means you and I can get to know each other a little better….

And you know, that’s really saying a lot. (wink)

 

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  1. Excellant post. Well thought out.

  2. Elizabeth…. just want to say that I really appreciated a lot you had to say in here. I can totally resonate with a TON of it. Especially the parts of guarding myself… tired of being hurt but yet I know I need people.

  3. Vulnerability, authenticity, is difficult for those of us for whom it has meant being a flashing neon sign screaming “beat me” to those wielding the righteousness sticks. I have always valued authenticity over doctrinal correctness (even when the doctrines espoused were not religious at all–the crunchy granola hippy crowd) as soon as I was old enough to realize the difference (in college). But it is only recently (I’m 45) that I am becoming willing to be boldy authentic myself rather than trying to squish myself into someone’s doctrine box. It seems to be my knee-jerk reflex to keep trying to find acceptance by the my correctness rather than my authenticity.

    You don’t have to listen to Christian music to be my friend! Just be honest. And I will do my best to be honest with you. /^\

  4. Awesome post, Elizabeth! Thanks for putting your thoughts out there! I’ll say that we’re in this mode of distinguishing between good and evil; joy and sorrow, and all the other opposites, because we’re in this physical realm as spiritual creatures, eating from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in order to get through this physical existence. Hopefully, though, it is through the physical experience in our lives that we learn about spiritual matters, where the tree of life can be found, and as 1 Corinthians 15:46 tells us, “But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.” (NRSV)

    The way I’m starting to see that verse from 1 Corinthians is reminiscent of the story in the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil first, and were banished from the Garden of Eden so as to not eat from the tree of life. What this means to me, is that we had to go through this process of understanding that in this physical realm in which we find ourselves currently, we rely mainly on our self-will, which is guided by God, but He does enable us to make choices based on the information given to us at the time, and as you said in this blog post, “I also think that there are built-in consequences for both our wisdom and our ignorance.”

    I guess the point of my response is to say that although we ate of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and blessings and curses ensued thereafter, and continue to do so, if you look at the practical response of the LORD God to the act of eating of said tree found in Genesis 3:21: “And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” (NRSV) So, even with the transgression, the practical response was one of protection, so perhaps while we’re in this realm of the physical as spiritual beings, we need this contrast in order to protect us from further harm. These are just thoughts I’ve had more recently, and could be subject to change–it’s just the way I see things presently and it makes sense to me.

  5. I’ve been following you’re missives for a while now since first reading one of your blogs on FB through the Freebelievers Network. I really appreciate your writings since they’re a mirror of my own journey, struggles and thoughts. Your thoughtful and honest musings give me more food for thought as well. I also want to encourage you to keep up the good work for as long as you are willing and, as much as humanly possible, ignore the pretentious and narrow minded views of so-called Christians. I look forward to your next blog. P.S. I’m a Canadian fan. 🙂

  6. I am sad. Also divorced but my pain is I dont get go see my girls as often as I want. Yours live with u. Dads get the shit end of the stick. I miss them to the point I get depressed

  7. You are so special and my hero. This is your life and yet you share it well and live it well. It is good to know you.

  8. Thank you for a remarkable post…You speak of us having partaken of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..Your writing implies that we are of Adam’s race and subject to all the ills and trials of that race. Having spent many years under various, yet similar, teachings, all based on my having been “Born Wrong,” Born of Adam’s race, having Adam’s Nature, being at enmity with God, being at war with God and Him at war with my nature. Having no righteousness, being totally unable to please Him, facing a certain death and eternity in Hell if I didn’t conform….What a bunch B.S.! What a total lack of understanding of Who’s Child we are and WHO we are….
    Adam’s race died at Calvary, all of it. When Jesus, from the cross, said “It is finished,” It was finished, the Law, the Curse, the nature of Adam, enmity with God, wrath, anger, judgement and everything else that has been used to illustrate our separation from God. At Calvary every Sin was forgiven, for all people of all times in all places, without out knowledge, without our consent. All were Redeemed from the Law and the curse of the Law. Then Sin and the Law were Put Away…
    God poured out His wrath, anger and judgement at Calvary, He simply has none left. We were not born Under the Law, we are Birthed in Grace, we are birthed as His Sons, complete with His Spirit, His Nature. Everything we need to Please God, Fellowship God and to walk with God, we were born with.
    Before Resurrection God was on the outside of Man, trying to get inside, since Resurrection God has indwelt each of us, and now is working to get out to a world deceived into believing they are separated from God. Apostle bore witness that nothing is able to separate us from the Love of God…Everything we need is already in us. Look inward to realize our Oneness with God, for it is inside us that He Dwells, has established His Throne. We are that Temple built in three days..Calvary to Resurrection..We are witnessing the Manifestation of the Sons of God..Hope this doesn’t come across as doctrine or dogma, this is God’s Grace in action. God is totally in Love with you just as you are. His Love is total, complete and unconditional…Grace to you, my sister, and Love..

  9. That IS saying a lot 😉

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